How to Make Salvadoran Pupusas

by Cynthia Au

Start to Finish: 30 minutes, not including marinating time

Servings: 4

Difficulty: Beginner

Pupusas can be found throughout Central America, but they originate from the Pacific coast of El Salvador. There, they are commonly sold as street snacks or as a fast, light lunch in local eateries. They are traditionally eaten with curtido, a marinated cabbage slaw, or hot sauce. Make pupusas at home to bring back a whiff of Latin American culture to North America. This recipe is adapted from ones by the Chicago Tribune and the kitchn.

Ingredients

Cheese Pupusas

  • 3 cups masa harina flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups grated quesillo cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Cooking spray

Curtido

  • 5 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 red or green jalapeños, seeded and minced

Directions

Curtido

In a large mixing bowl, mix the cabbage, carrot, onion, garlic and salt, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Drain half of the liquid that comes out of the vegetables. Add the vinegar, sugar, jalapeños and water. Store, covered, in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

Tips

  • Increase the amount of garlic and hot pepper you use if you like a stronger tasting curtido.

Pupusas

Mix the salt, masa harina, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and water in a large mixing bowl. Knead until you have a damp, malleable dough.

Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Divide the dough into 8 portions, and roll into spheres.

Push one of the dough balls inward, forming a hollow center. Fill with 1 tablespoon of grated quesillo, and seal the ball, rolling to ensure there are no cracks.

Pat the sphere into a 1/4-inch thick disk, being careful to not let the cheese escape from the center.

Spray the frying pan with cooking spray, and cook your pupusa for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat until all pupusas are cooked.

Serve immediately while they are still warm, with a serving of curtido on the side.

Variations

Curtido ingredients can be varied to include an assortment of vegetables, many from the cabbage family. Common additions throughout Central America include:

  • Cauliflower florets;
  • Sliced radishes;
  • Cucumber slices or chunks; and
  • Sliced fennel.

If you don’t have access to quesillo, other mild-tasting white cheeses can be substituted. Options include:

  • Queso fresco;
  • Monterey Jack; and
  • Mozzarella.

The filling for pupusas can be easily changed. Fillings range from meat and cheese options to vegetarian ones. Common ingredients are:

  • Loroco, the buds of a flower native to El Salvador;
  • Seasoned, cooked ground beef;
  • Minced, grilled steak;
  • Seasoned, cooked chicken;
  • Refried beans; and
  • Crushed chicharron (fried pork rinds).

About the Author

Cynthia Au has studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and currently works as a chef instructor specializing in food styling. She has worked as a writer and editor with a focus on food and food science since 2007 and regularly teaches both adults and young children about the joys of home cooking.